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Chelsea are in desperate need of a win having seen their top-four hopes evaporate
Leeds United picked up a much-needed 1-0 victory over Southampton last time out
Do not expect a high-scoring thriller when Chelsea do battle with Leeds this weekend
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Given how poor the Blues are going forward, this could be another slog.
Back under 2.5 goals when Chelsea take on Leeds United this weekend. (-110)
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It is easy to forget now, but Graham Potter actually made a bright start to his tenure as Chelsea manager.
Taking charge in early September following the contentious sacking of Thomas Tuchel, Potter initailly oversaw a nine-game unbeaten run in all competitions. It looked like Todd Boehly’s decision to make an early change was going to pay off.
Alas, it has been almost entirely downhill since then. After a 1-1 draw with Manchester United, the last Premier League game in that aforementioned unbeaten run, Chelsea were fifth. They were outside the top four on goal difference alone and had a game in hand on several of the sides above them in the standings.
The table does not make for such pleasant reading four months on. Ahead of Leeds United’s trip to Stamford Bridge on Saturday, Chelsea are 10th. They trail the top four by 14 points. Needless to say, there is no longer any realistic chance of Potter’s side qualifying for the 2023/24 Champions League.
Perhaps the only thing that can save the under-fire manager is a run to the latter stages of this season’s edition of that competition. Chelsea trail Borussia Dortmund 1-0 after the first leg of their last-16 tie, with the German side to visit west London on Tuesday.
Before then, Chelsea must try and stop the rot. They have won just one of their last 11 outings in all competitions, a dismal sequence entirely unbefitting of a club that was crowned champions of Europe less than two years ago.
A 2-0 defeat by Tottenham Hotspur last weekend was yet another poor result for Potter, who is hanging by a thread at Stamford Bridge. Anything less than a win against Leeds could lead to the vultures circling.
It did not take long for Javi Gracia to make an impact at Leeds United. A delay in the processing of the Spaniard’s work permit meant his presence on the touchline for Saturday’s showdown with Southampton was in doubt, but the paperwork went through just in time.
Gracia, who previously managed Watford in the top flight of English soccer, was delighted with the 1-0 win which moved his new team outside the relegation zone.
"When I came, I could feel all the people in and around the club really needed a victory and good result. It's good for confidence. I know it's only one step but at the moment for us, it's an important step.”
There is still a long way to go, however. Leeds are just one point above the bottom three. No team in the division has won fewer games than the Whites, who have emerged triumphant on just five occasions.
Leeds have some tough games coming up. A trip to Stamford Bridge will not be easy despite Chelsea’s struggles, and Gracia’s men must also face Brighton & Hove Albion and Arsenal in the weeks ahead.
But it was vital that they got the job done against Southampton, who are currently bottom of the table. It was by no means the perfect performance from Leeds, but they showed grit, character and enough quality to get the better of Ruben Selles’s side. Gracia will be looking for more of the same against Chelsea this weekend.
Not all of Chelsea’s problems would be solved by sacking Potter. The squad is bloated after extraordinary splurges in the first two transfer windows of Boehly’s ownership.
It would be difficult for any manager to keep every member of such an enlarged group satisfied, while it is tough to build cohesion when you are trying to balance so many different parts.
“Two years into Mikel’s [Arteta] reign [at Arsenal] he’s close to getting the sack and people are wanting him out and it’s a disaster. And now things have changed a little bit – and that’s just the way it is,” Potter said last weekend in an attempt to defend his position.
The problem is, there are few signs of an identity at Chelsea right now and the fans have not been given anything to hold onto. That is not entirely Potter’s fault, but it is the main reason why he could be nearing the end of his time in charge of the club.
Chelsea may well get over the line on Saturday, but it is unlikely to be pretty. The Blues have the third-best defensive record in the division this term, having conceded fewer goals than all but Newcastle United and Arsenal.
But Chelsea are really struggling in attack, and it is notable that 11 of their last 12 league games have featured under 2.5 goals. That looks like a wise selection for Saturday’s encounter too.
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Teams: Chelsea vs Leeds United
Location: Stamford Bridge, London, England
Date and Time: Mar. 4, 2023, 10.00 a.m. EST
How to Watch: Peacock Premium
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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